The Marvel Cinematic Universe: A Conversation

Posted: May 31, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Conversations

20131113230605!Marvels-logoMichael Dennos: When does enough finally become enough?  This past weekend marked the release of the much-anticipatedAvengers: Age of Ultron, the latest entry into the ongoing “cinematic universe” that Marvel has had going for the past seven years.  In that time, we’ve had eleven films set in said universe, but the connection running through each extends beyond just that simple fact.  As my blogging colleague, Daniel, and I each expressed in our respective reviews of the Hulk-sized blockbuster, these Marvel movies have mostly fallen into a pretty repetitive pattern, a formula that nearly all of these movies have been following for a while now, and in both our cases, “Marvel fatigue” has begun to set in.  But can the same be said for all comic book adaptations in general?  Today, we thought it’d be interesting to sit down together and discuss that very topic as it relates to Marvel, DC and the genre as an entirety.  Dan, would you like to get us going?

Daniel Simpson: Absolutely. I guess we should start by clarifying our own level of immersion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For my part, I’ve seen all eleven films (all in theaters except The Incredible Hulk) and all more than once except Guardians of the Galaxy and Age of Ultron. I’ve also seen all of the Netflix series Daredevil and a few of the shorts Marvel has put out. I haven’t seen Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D or Agent Carter. 

Michael: I’ve seen all eleven MCU films so far as well, each in theaters first, and own all of them except for The Incredible Hulk, which is my least favorite of the films by quite a margin and is also the only one I’ve seen once, except forAge of Ultron.  As for the TV shows, I’m about to start the Daredevil in the next week or two, I’ve seen Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D in their entirety and have seen, I think, only one of the shorts included in a few of the Blu Ray and DVD releases of some of the films.  So, it’s safe to say we’re both pretty well-versed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Daniel: Given that we’ve each seen so much from the MCU (and much of it multiple times), it would seem to suggest were both huge fans, but I know for me at least, that’s not entirely true. While I’ve enjoyed most of the films to varying degrees, I can’t say I’m really in love with the MCU thus far. As you’ve mentioned, these films have generally stuck very closely to a standard formula, and I think that’s one of the main reasons I’ve never fully embraced the franchise. I know exactly what I’m gonna get with each instalment. Paradoxically, I think that’s also precisely why the franchise has been so popular thus far. Audiences know what to expect out of each entry and Marvel always gives it to them.

Michael: Yeah, I like the majority of what Marvel has put out themselves the past few years, and the ones in question have a nice rewatchability factor, but none of them have been what I’d call “great”, so I definitely agree with you there and about the formula.  Marvel has developed a formula with their movies now, and as the box office results clearly indicate, the general audience is a fan of that formula, and I can see why.  Every Marvel movie is filled with big action sequences, nifty special effects, colorful characters and a nice dose of humor.  When the first Iron Mancame out, I was generally as enthusiastic about it as everybody else; it wasn’t as good as Spider-Man 2 orBatman Begins, for example, and that summer’s The Dark Knight is still the best comic book film ever as far as I’m concerned, but there was definitely something to Iron Man.  Was it mostly Robert Downey Jr.?  You can make that argument, but I also think that film’s overall story arc holds up and is still effective.  Iron Man arguably created the formula we’re talking about, and here we are eleven films deep into this universe now, and I’d say only, maybe, five of those movies have managed to really feel fresh in some way.

Daniel: In general I think these films have got a lot of mileage out of their casts. Even The Incredible Hulk, which is widely the most forgettable and disposable of the series, had a great actor like Edward Norton playing Bruce Banner. The movies are populated by popular and fun personalities, along with Oscar-worthy talent. It makes sense from a business perspective. This universe is more connected through the various superheroes than any plot specifics, so it’s wise to invest so much care in the characters. I think the strong casts distract people from the fact that they’ve largely been seeing the same story of villains chasing colourful McGuffins to destroy the world over and over again.

You mention that no films of the MCU have achieved the greatness of films like Batman Begins or Spider-Man 2, which I agree with. Why do you think this is?

Michael: I think it’s because Marvel has this model for their cinematic universe, and this incredibly specific plan for it — let’s not forget that they have their whole slate through 2019 already mapped out — that there may not be much room for a whole lot of creativity for writers and directors who come in to work on an MCU film.  Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind here is last year when Edgar Wright departed Ant-Man, which comes out in two months.  What’s clear about that is that Wright had this specific vision for the film, one he created a number of years ago when he first came onto the project, but all these year later, that vision didn’t “fit” into Marvel’s current modus operandi.  Knowing that Captain America: Civil War is the next Marvel movie after Ant-Man, I’m going to hazard a guess that Ant-Man is going to have some pretty heavy set-up for Civil War, and that’s why Edgar Wright left.

Now, let’s look at films like Spider-Man 2, the Christopher Nolan Batman films, and even Man of Steel.  Movies like that weren’t beholden to a massive shared universe (well, Man of Steel is purportedly the kickstarter for the DC universe), so they had a lot more freedom to be the movies they wanted to be.  Spider-Man 2 works so much because it can just focus on Peter Parker, his plethora of everyday struggles that affect his life, and be a relatively self-contained story without having to worry about Spider-Man’s arc setting up his role in an upcoming movie.  Neither is it really following a pre-set plot structure; it’s just telling a compelling story.  The same goes for the recent Batman trilogy.  Yes, those movies are connected, but each can stand on its own for the most part and Christopher Nolan had the freedom and opportunity to tell the stories he wanted to tell, and not the ones DC dictated. Man of Steel was a great movie mainly because it was a new and interesting take on the Superman mythos.  So, what’s the one thing we can take away from this list?  All these movies were ones that tried interesting things with the characters and comic mythologies they had.  By the way, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Man of Steel is better than ANY of the MCU movies.

Daniel: You hit the nail right on the head. I’ve seen interviews with Nolan where he takes about how he never had a uniformed plan for The Dark Knight trilogy. With each entry, he and everyone involved just made the best film they could. Since they didn’t have to worry about setting up the next in a franchise, they were able to cut loose and not pull punches. The same goes for Bryan Singer and Matthew Vaughn’s work on X-Men, Raimi’s work on Spider-Man, and Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. In general, the felt presence of a director really elevated each of these works, or at least helped mark it as distinct. This is also true of pre-millennial superhero films. Which films are the forefathers of comic book movies? Richard Donner’s Superman and Tim Burton’s Batman, both films which bear the stamp of their directors. For any doubt of that, just look at how those franchises fared after Donner and Burton had left.

The MCU isn’t interested in allowing their directors to really take charge of a project. The stories all need to serve “the big picture” and even visually each entry has more or less looked the same as everything else. It’s not that these films are poorly made, in fact they’re made quite competently on a technical level, but they lack any directorial flair.

Michael: It’s interesting that you mention directorial flair, because when I think back on the MCU movies that have been particularly good, one of the commonalities there is because the specific director managed to put their stamp on the film while still keeping it a Marvel movie.  I’ll use Iron Man 3 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier as examples.  Iron Man 3 obviously contained a lot of “Marvel-isms”, but at the same time, co-writer and director Shane Black brought his sense of storytelling style to that film, and it really served the movie well, in my opinion.  I heard someone recently describe Iron Man 3 as a “great Shane Black movie, but not a good Iron Man movie.” Iron Man 3, for me, is one of those five Marvel movies that have been better than the rest.  Why?  Because I loved Shane Black’s more stripped-down approach to it, and it also felt like it was its own entity, even though it was the third in a trilogy and seventh in this big ongoing series.  I even remember walking out of that film with a giddy feeling.  Now let’s look at Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  Directors Anthony and Joe Russo made that movie into a gritty, political action thriller, and that made it stand out in comparison with the rest of the MCU, and my opinion of that film grows and grows the more time that passes.  Also, there’s the first Thor.  Kenneth Branagh gave that movie an operatic fantasy feel, and that worked really well, too.  So, I think Marvel would do well to follow their processes with those films, and give their directors more breathing room.  Look, if X-Men: Days of Future Past, a movie that is only associated with Marvel by name only, can be better than ALL of Marvel Studios’ output in the last seven years, then they need to take a few steps back.

Daniel: I do agree with you that those are three of the more interesting films of the MCU, but at the same time, I still feel the shackles of the studio on the filmmakers. Yes, they make all of the changes you observe, but visually they still follow the same aesthetic and Iron Man 3 and The Winter Soldier both end on the standard large scale set-pieces we’ve come to expect. captain-america-the-winter-soldier-imax-poster

We’ve both talked about how part of what holds the individual films back is the need to pay service to the larger universe, however I think The Winter Soldier is a great example of how to do both. The plot is engaging and thematic enough to stand on it’s own while remaining a great continuation of Cap’s role in Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers. However the film also ended on an intriguing cliffhanger involving Cap and Falcon’s hunt for The Winter Soldier, which was an enticing set-up for future films. More importantly, the reveal of S.H.I.E.L.D’s corruption and it’s subsequent destruction at the hands of Captain America is a big moment with a wide effect in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In short, the film was able to tell it’s own story, fit well into the continuity of what came before, and set up future instalments in an organic matter. It’s possible to do all of those things with proper planning. The thing is, I don’t think Marvel actually plans the details of their universe all that well. Most of the time, the connection is only the characters themselves and a few throwaway lines. Often, major story beats don’t actually translate. Avengers: Age of Ultron mostly ignores Tony Stark’s implied retirement at the end of Iron Man 3and also dismisses the destruction of S.H.I.E.L.D by allowing the team to continue using S.H.I.E.L.D resources. Then there’s the fact that the next Captain America film is Civil War, and will likely not focus on the Winter Soldier despite what has been set-up thus far.

Michael: Yeah, the whole S.H.I.E.L.D. plot twist has honestly had more effect on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. than it has on the cinematic universe.  I heard you mention how, in Age of Ultron, how having S.H.I.E.L.D. basically come back undercut the impact of Winter Soldier, and I agree there.  But as a regular viewer of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., that pretty much fits in with what’s happening on the show, because Hydra has pretty much taken a backseat to a new issue on the show, or Hydra might mostly be defeated by now.

But in terms of what’s coming up for Marvel in Phase Three, I’m honestly fairly interested in their next slate.  Ant-Man looks really fun and Civil War could have potential, given its premise, but titles like Doctor Strange and Black Panther stand out to me as ones that could really be something, but as we’ve been discussing, Marvel needs to give their directors for those enough leeway where they can wind up being as good as Winter Soldier.  They really need another movie as good as Winter Soldier or a few of the DC films we’ve mentioned.

Daniel: I’m still very skeptical of Ant-Man. The trailers seem like a return to the origin story type comic book movies which plagued the early 2000s and the whole background with Edgar Wright just bothers me. Doctor Strange and Black Panther could be cool though. I’m also hopeful for Civil War based on the strength of what the Russo Brothers did with The Winter Soldier.

I think another thing the MCU needs is better villains. Out of their eleven films, very few of their villains stand out. Loki is the obvious exception, but even a lot of that stems from Tom Hiddleston’s fun performance. As an actual villain, he’s only really effective in Thor. His plan in The Avengers is completely illogical and he’s slapped around so much that he’s hard to take seriously. The titular villain in The Winter Solder worked pretty well, at least as a silent and threatening presence. I liked Hugo Weaving’s take on The Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger, but he’s still a simplistic conqueror. The Iron Man series has had a string of forgettable villains, despite the great actors behind them like Jeff Bridges, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, and Guy Pearce. Of course, I had fun with Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin, but the twist kind of makes him ineligible. Meanwhile, Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy it’s featured a boring alien who wanted to use an infinity gem to conquer. And finally, we have the newest villain, Ultron. James Spader’s voice work is great, but the character himself is totally underdeveloped.

Michael: Yeah, the strength — or lack thereof — of the villains in the MCU is another thing that needs addressing.  James Spader is really the only reason Ultron was fun to watch; as a character, his development was indeed rushed, or even practically nonexistent.  He’s created and literally within, like ten seconds, he wants to destroy humanity.  Loki still takes the cake as my favorite MCU villain, and Ronan in Guardians might be the weakest, or Malekith, but I actually want to stand up again for Iron Man 3.  Spoilers, but Aldrich Killian is the real bad guy in that movie, and I actually really like him.  Now, what exactly is his ultimate goal in the movie?  Damned if I know, but he sure goes about it in an effective way.  He causes A LOT of mayhem in the film and I generally find him to be the most effective Iron Man villain in that respect.  In addition, Guy Pearce gives the role his all.  The rest of the villains aren’t really anything that special, apart from The Winter Soldier.

Daniel: Speaking of villains, I think this presents Civil War with an excellent opportunity if they really commit to Iron Man being a villain. The whole story involves the government forcing superheroes to register and go public with their identities, and Stark was instrumental in leading that crusade. It’s reasonable to believe he will be the one leading the registration in the MCU adaptation, and this puts him in a very villainous role, which the film can really push. We already know and like the character, his heroic motivation makes him complex, it would be a bold and defined arc, and the character makes for an imposing threat physically and mentally. It would be an ambitious change, but if done well I’ll bet it can really work. We would not only get a great villain, but I radical step away from the typical MCU formula. Will Marvel do this? I sort of doubt it. I’m sure Iron Man will take an antagonistic role in Civil War, but I don’t think Marvel will really push the darkness of that given the character’s fanbase.

Changing gears a little, how do you feel about Marvel content spanning so many different mediums? I’m of two minds about it. On the one hand, I think the Netflix series Daredevil has really allowed them to tell darker, more low-key stories and that I really appreciate. On the other hand, I’ve avoided Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D because I didn’t think it looked very good (which is also what I’ve heard from various sources) yet I feel like I’m gonna have to watch it at some point just to keep up with the lore.daredevilheader

Michael: First of all, you make an excellent point about Civil War.  Personally, I think Marvel won’t go too far in terms of portraying Tony Stark as an all-out antagonist, because the character, as you said, has built up such a huge fanbase by now and Marvel wouldn’t want to risk alienating that fanbase too much.  And as we’ve made clear by now, Marvel doesn’t seem very interested in taking risks with their material.  So, for Stark in Civil War, I think it’s more likely we’re going to see a sort of middle ground of all that you suggested.

My thoughts on Marvel expanding outside of movies boil down to that I’m open to it.  Like I said, I haven’t started watching the Daredevil show yet, but I’ve certainly liked what I’ve seen from the previews, and it does look like an interesting change of pace for Marvel, so I’m excited to dive into it soon.  Agent Carter was actually pretty good; with it being an eight-part miniseries, the storytelling was fairly tight and Hayley Atwell was a joy to watch, but it still had the typical Marvel tone, just in a period setting.  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., everybody agrees, didn’t really get interesting until Winter Soldier came out and ever since, that show’s been better.  Currently, they’re dealing with the whole Inhumans storyline, which is interesting because that film is still a ways out.  But yeah, my watching their T.V. output is pretty much just a combination of interest in what they offer and a desire to keep up with the lore.

But if we’re going to talk about comic adaptations on T.V., then we can’t ignore the success DC is having with Arrow and The Flash, both of which I watch and love.  The common opinion is that these shows are better than Marvel’s, and I would agree.  I think DC has this sort of small-screen storytelling style down well.  When I compare them to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., for example, it all comes down to the storytelling.  These two shows are so good because they have strong writers who are in-tune with their comic mythologies and can twist them into compelling story arcs for the T.V. format.  Plus, the characters are handled with care.  I’m not saying Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t know how to do this — Season 2 has been a big step up from where it began — but DC just has better people involved in their shows, and I hope Marvel can find writers and producers as strong as the ones working on Arrow and The Flash for their future T.V. slate.

Daniel: I haven’t watched any of the DC shows yet, but it doesn’t surprise me to hear they’re better. I remember as a kid there was a lot of superhero cartoon shows I watched, and the DC properties were, by and large, much better than their Marvel counterparts. I’ve even gone back and rewatched a lot of these shows and the DC ones generally hold up a lot better.

Here’s a new topic; in the last few months, Marvel has made a deal with Sony which will allow Spider-Man to be a part of the MCU. As of now, no one has been casted and a director hasn’t been chosen, but I’m still curious to hear your take on this.

Michael: I’ll be honest, I’m rather indifferent about the whole Spider-Man announcement.  Growing up, I was more into the DC heroes myself, so those are the ones with potential to interest me more than the Marvel ones.  Look, as long as they can get something good out of the deal, then hey, I’m all for it.  Drew Goddard has been announced as the screenwriter, so that’s encouraging, and as of now, Asa Butterfield (Hugo, Ender’s Game) appears to be the frontrunner for the role, and that’s an interesting choice.  Now…I know I’m in the minority on this, but I really quite liked the last two Amazing Spider-Man movies, particularly Andrew Garfield in the lead role, who I thought did a very good job.  Ideally, I would’ve liked Garfield to have been brought over into the MCU, but I get that Marvel wants to do their own, new take on the character, so in that case, I can still enjoy Garfield’s two films and see what comes of the third screen incarnation of the web-slinger.  If I had to make wishes about what I want to see from the MCU Spider-Man, it’d be that they can capture the same playful spirit of the character that Andrew Garfield brought to the table (which, from what I know about Spider-Man, was closer to the comics than Tobey Maguire’s was) and that they get a director who can bring together all the best elements of the various Spider-Man films so far into one movie.

Daniel: I too am a little indifferent. This largely stems from the fact that the MCU is all about “the big picture”, emphasized by the fact that the current working title for their Spider-Man film is Spider-Man: The New Avenger. Right from the start, the point of the film is Spider-Man’s role within the MCU rather than the character himself, and I think Spider-Man is actually bigger than the team. He deserves more. I may also be Spider-Maned out. I more or less hated the Marc Webb films and while I’m hopeful I’ll prefer this iteration, I could also use a break. I think the new inclusion of Spider-Man also reveals Marvel to not be the grand masters everyone assumes them to be. There seems to be an assumption that Marvel has this grand plan, with every detail thought it, and yet as soon as they had Spider-Man they announced he’d be thrown into the mix. If the details were so intricately planned, you’d think the inclusion of such a major character would call for major change, but that doesn’t seem the case. Granted, I might see a trailer and change my tune, but as of now I’m not too excited about this.

I’m also worried this is the first step to Marvel getting the rights to the X-Men, which is something I really don’t want.

Michael: Yeah, I’m pretty much in the same boat.  After all the success they’ve had, there seems to be the assumption that “if Marvel’s doing it themselves, then it’s going to be good!”  Well, are we forgetting that The Incredible Hulk wasn’t a good movie?  Are we forgetting that Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World had their share of issues?  Also, Age of Ultron has its problems as well.  Now, let me be clear, I’m not pre-judging the new Spider-Man movie in any way; it could turn out great, or it could turn out bad.  Ideally, like you, I’d prefer another standalone effort, sort of like how the Sam Raimi movies operated.  Also, once the new Spider-Man was announced, Marvel shifted around a few of their release dates to accommodate it, so they do have to adapt at certain times.  If they were to get the X-Men rights as well, then I’d be less enthusiastic, too, because, c’mon, the last two X-Men films were friggin’ awesome and those are more examples of comic book adaptations that take advantage of their ability to just tell great stories without worrying too much about continuity.  It just all ultimately comes back to the point that the Marvel formula is getting stale by this point.  They need more movies like Guardians of the Galaxy that are different enough to breathe some new life into their projects, and a lot of their Phase Three line-up has the potential to do that.

Daniel: In addition to the quality of the recent X-Men films, the idea of Mutants existing in the MCU just bothers me.

Michael: Well, technically, mutants already do exist in the MCU, they’re just referred to as “Inhumans”.

Daniel: It would just feel weird for the entire X-Men history and cannon to be suddenly in the world of the MCU, and the idea of Marvel just rebooting the X-Men is nauseating.

You’ve alluded to the future of the MCU, and that seems a good place to conclude the discussion. What do you see as the future for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, both in Phase Three, and beyond?

Michael: What do I see as the future for the MCU?  Well, as Phase Three indicates, Marvel’s starting to find more characters from their roster that not much of the general audience is aware of and giving those characters their own movies.  Also, spoiler alert for Age of Ultron, but the last scene of that film introduced a new Avengers team.  So, we’re starting to see Marvel expand their horizons beyond characters who’ve already proven bankable, and that’s interesting to me.  Even if this grand plan for the MCU is still in place, Marvel is at least showing us that they have more in their corner than just Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, and after six years of movies about that group, I think it’s indeed time to bring in new blood.  Do I see Marvel changing their overall strategy/formula for making these movies?  Not really, but still, I’ve liked most of their output so far, although I’m still waiting for that first GREAT Marvel Studios film (movies like Days of Future Past don’t count because Marvel is only associated by name only in cases like that), or I’d even be happy with pleasant “B+ surprises” like Guardians of the Galaxy,which make the Marvel paradigm feel fresh again because they have directors who can do that.  Ultimately, the most I can hope for is to see more directors like Kenneth Branagh and James Gunn brought on to these projects to make the Marvel experience the best it can be, given the constraints of the shared universe model.

Daniel: Regarding the future; I do agree Phase Three can be promising. We really don’t know all that much about a lot of those upcoming films, but there’s certainly potential, and the fact that they’re shifting focus away from the big four (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Hulk) show they have very long term plans. Thing is, I’m skeptical of how long the MCU will be dominating the cinematic landscape. Mainstream taste is often a fad, and what’s popular doesn’t always stay that way. Westerns were a major deal for a long time in cinema, and then people lost interest. Of course, we still got Westerns, but less frequently, and the ones we got were often a bit more revisionist. Eventually were likely going to hit a point where superhero films aren’t the hip thing. It’s been fifteen years since X-Men brought about the superhero boom and people are starting to get tired of it. These films still perform well now, but it seems like more and more people are verbally expressing frustration with the constant barrage of comic book adaptations (at least in a lot of my circles). Additionally, each of these films are so high-budgeted that one flop alone could really hurt the whole. I’m not saying it’ll happen today, or even in the next ten years necessarily, but there will be a drop-off point.

Michael: Yeah, I think there’s definitely a timer of sorts on this genre, inevitably counting down to when audiences as a whole will say “Enough already!”  But currently, it feels like people are way too into Marvel for that to happen anytime soon, plus, when DC starts gradually increasing their output next year with Batman vs. Superman and Suicide Squad, from all accounts, that’ll provide audience with just a little variety because DC has gone on record saying that they want their films to feel different from Marvel’s.  So, for comparison’s sake, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Wonder Woman are both coming out in 2017, and if DC is pursuing an overall grittier tone, then that will provide an opportunity for audiences to experience different kinds of comic book films instead of just being exposed to one specific brand and running the risk of becoming tired of it, and I think that’s a good thing.

Getting back to Phase Three, though, it was recently announced that Captain America: Civil War has added Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, the newest team of Avengers and even William Hurt as General Ross from The Incredible Hulkto its cast.  Now, to me, this is a little worrying.  I know both of us are fans of Winter Soldier and I assume, like me, you were hoping for another more standalone Captain America film like that one was.  Again, the Civil War storyline seems to have a lot of potential, but I just want Captain America 3, and not Avengers 2.5.  Winter Soldier had such a solid story, and one that I’d like to see the continuation of, but this is all but confirmation that they’re putting that storyline to the side in favor of furthering their shared universe and grand plan.  This also creates an overcrowding issue.  We saw what that did to Spider-Man 3, and we certainly don’t want that.  On the other hand, maybe it could be more like Days of Future Past, where a large cast is well-utilized, but for now, I have to say I’m concerned because the name of this movie is Captain America: Civil War, not Avengers: Civil War.

Daniel: I’m a bit surprised Marvel didn’t just formally commit to Avengers: Civil War given the size of the storyline. But yeah, as a big fan of Winter Soldier, this is a bit concerning. I do think bringing William Hurt’s General Ross back is interesting given how The Incredible Hulk tends to be completely ignored. As far as Ant-Man’s involvement goes…I’m not sure. I know in the comics, the Civil War was brought on by a super-powered being losing control of his powers and causing the deaths of innocence. It’s possible Ant-Man will feature an event with a casualty level which could prompt the titular Civil War. I highly doubt it, but maybe. Actually, given what Scarlet Witch’s powers are like, I could see her being the one that prompts the debate.

I just hope they eventually get to The Winter Soldier’s story.

Michael: Someone else made the suggestion that, what if The Winter Soldier was found in the opening action sequence of the film, a la what you normally see at the beginning of a James Bond movie?  To me, that’d be a major disappointment, because there’s so much Marvel could do with that story, given where that film leaves off.  On the flipside, though, from what I understand of the Civil War story arc, there seems to be a very political undertone to it all, and that would fall in line with the tone of The Winter Soldier.  So, if the Russos can bring that quality out again, just magnified on a bigger scale obviously, then Civil War could turn out to be quite good.  In many respects, this is their big audition for the two-part Infinity War film.  But I hope they treat it as one complete, separate entity rather than two hours of Infinity War set-up.

But getting back to Marvel’s lack of risk, one could make the case that this entire cinematic universe has been a giant risk, and that’s true.  This type of thing has never been done before.  But focusing back in on story elements specifically, Marvel has fallen into a pattern of character death fake-outs.  What are your feelings on that?

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Daniel: The notion of building a cinematic universe certainly was risky, but it also seemed a vaguely conceived idea born out of business reasons which was mostly made up as it went along. So there are risks, certainly, but they don’t seem to be very artistic ones. As far as the character death fake-outs…it’s annoying. An issue with these movies is the characters are so powerful that it’s hard to imagine them actually being in peril. So when you have situations like Coulson being murdered by Loki only to show up in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D as a lead really dilutes the importance of death. Hopefully Quicksilver stays dead.

Michael: Well, with Quicksilver caught in the middle between Marvel and Fox, perhaps the agreement for the character was only for one MCU film.  Also, when Joss Whedon kills off a character, it sticks…in most cases. *coughCoulsoncough*

Anyway, it seems like we’ve covered everything we can about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so with that in mind, do you have any parting thoughts?  For me, it all comes down to this when talking about Marvel Studios: they’ve proven they can make good movies, and they’ve established a successful formula, and that’s good for them; movies like the first Iron Man and Thor film, not to mention Captain America: The Winter Soldier, have been quite strong.  I don’t hate Marvel.  However, that being said, it’s clear by now that their devotion to a multi-phase cinematic franchise/universe is starting to hinder their creativity somewhat.  In looking towards the future for them, I hope to see them try more new things and loosen up a little on stories that have to go hand-in-hand with movies coming a few years down he road.  It’s admirable that they have such grand designs for these movies, and I appreciate that they manage to be entertaining at the very least.  But if Avengers: Age of Ultron proved anything, it’s that the Marvel formula has started getting a bit stale, so I hope to see them reinvigorate their movies somehow, and I know they can do it if they want to.  Phase Three, again, has considerable potential, so here’s hoping we get more Winter Soldiers instead of more of the same.

Daniel: I’ve always personally seen the MCU as being comparable to the Call of Duty games from Modern Warfare on. For the most part, every Call of Duty game is more or less exactly the same. Some might be a little bit better, others a bit worse, but they all follow a very clear formula and are produced so rapidly it all blends together. It can be frustrating for those looking for innovation, but fans no exactly what they are going to get. That essentially captures how I feel about Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. I like some films more than others, and some less, but they’re mostly the same. Granted, the studio has recently shown signs of growth, and with any luck they move forward more with that. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. For now I’ll remain as I’ve always been; a casual fan of the series hoping Marvel pushes things further.

So now, we turn the buck to you, the reader. What do you think about the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Are you as lukewarm as we, a hardcore Marvel geek, a hater? Let us know in the comments, and thanks for reading.

 

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